Thrillville - Archives for Thrillville Beat
By Will ("The Thrill") Viharo
THIS MONTH: THE ROAD TO CHILLVILLE; RIP-ROARIN REDNECK ROYALTY!
WILL THE CHILL? CHILLY WILLY?
Being a lounge lizard doesnt necessarily mean one is carefree, footloose and fancy free. The stress of surviving in this Bush-whacked world takes its toll even on a loose-livin Latin lover like me. (Well, Im not exactly Latin, but I love Monica, Tiki Goddess, who is.) Recently I was diagnosed as being literally Stressed Out. This was shocking news to me. I didnt even realize it until certain physical manifestations took place, symptoms culminating in an all-out anxiety attack. I traced this sudden nervous explosion to recent events in my personal life mostly the horrific hit-and-run rear-end accident last November that nearly erased Monica from the face of the planet and demolished our brand new car, a recent wedding gift. This combined with some other disturbing private matters, including a bizarre stalker situation and crazy letters from my poor schizo mother, plus the whole post-9/11 trauma still in the air, resulted in a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. I was even afraid I had a brain tumor subliminally suggested first by a 60 Minutes report on the subject, soon followed by Dr. Greens fatal diagnosis on ER, one of those shows I watch with Monica, who only watches it because she wants to finish the god damn series which will seemingly never friggin end. Not only did Dr. Green have an inoperable brain tumor, he went to die in Hawaii, land of my honeymoon and my future dreams. I developed a psychosomatic reaction every time I watched the stupid show, until it culminated in the near-breakdown. The fear of having a brain tumor was practically giving me a stroke! Granted, I was already fragile from the combination of those other factors, but still, it was major cuckoo time. I confess all this because in a public forum the humor of my pathetic condition seems more obvious, but I also wanted to share with others two hard-learned life lessons: 1) Take it easy and 2) dont watch network television, it sends evil signals that fuck with your head. Literally.
Anyway, Im much better now that Ive been meditating, learning breathing exercises, avoiding anything with brain in it (even beloved flicks like The Brain That Wouldnt Die, Brainiac, and The Brain From Planet Arous) and taking vitamin B supplements. I thought I had plenty of B in my life already. But my daily pots of coffee combined with the several pints of booze I consume at The Parkway on a regular basis were eroding the rest of my frazzled nerves. So I cut back on those liquids, increased my exercise (meaning I now take even more walks to the Video Room on Piedmont), and in general learned to Relax. Sipping martinis while listening to Martin Denny and Jackie Gleason records is apparently not quite enough to soothe the mind, heart, body and soul (though that helps, too). Anxiety is an insidious internal illness that just creeps up on you, as a fellow meditating anxiety-sufferer put it, like something in a David Cronenberg movie. Now I feel like one of those celebrities waxing philosophical and remorseful about their trip to the Betty Ford Clinic, but hell, maybe someone reading this is suffering from the same problem, and my tale of truth and triumph will inspire them to likewise take a time-out to smell the neuroses. Sure, being in the public eye added to my stress, but was not the source of it by any means. It just impaired my ability to deal with it. Public figures like me and I just started thinking of myself as one recently are subject to random anonymous vilification, which can be a real pain in the ass. People think I do this for the adulation. Truth is, I dont need the strange love or the faceless disdain. What I need is the money, which trickles in slower than a leaky faucet. Until I get paid like a real celebrity, I refuse the abuse such a position warrants in the minds of malcontents. Meantime, I keep at it because I love sharing B movie lounge culture with anyone remotely interested, and theres many more of you out there than I ever dared to imagine. It gives one hope for the future of mankind.
And of course, on top of all this other crap, Im turning 40 next year. Unreal, man. Though Im grateful to have made it this far, its just weird to be leaving behind the 30s, the last decade you can safely classify as youthful. I dont want to delve too deep into the age thing, since normally I dont trip on it, but when I look in the mirror, I dont see the face of a 39 year old man. I still see the same baby face that grooved on toys and monster movies years and years ago and maybe thats because this face still does groove on toys and monster movies. Thats the secret to staying young keeping in touch with your inner child. It may also be the key to reducing the stress of adulthood. The further you get away from your youthful sense of innocent fun and awe, the more tightly wound you become, until you pop your springs.
Speaking of springs, Monica and I spent a great weekend in Palm Springs a little while back. It was a big Tiki Blowout event co-sponsored by Otto Von Stroheim of Tiki News (www.tikinews.com), and his lovely bride Baby Doe of The Devil-ettes, who just had a son, Vander Vegas Von Stroheim, a helluva name to live up to but he has the pedigree to do it, and with style. We stayed at a restored motor lodge called the Caliente Tropics (www.calientetropics.com), hobnobbed with aging punkers sporting tattoos and babies, hung out with our favorite artist Shag (www.shag-art.com), ate at some stylish restaurants with our pallies Bruce and Lisa, and drank authentic Mai Tais that actually gave us a buzz (you can get good drinks down there, another big plus over Vegas). I finally met Atomic magazine editor Leslie Rosenberg poolside, and shes quite a doll. We also got to visit Uncle Bill, the Trailer King, who lives down there, and I had a chance to pay tribute at the gravesite of my spiritual mentor Frank Sinatra in nearby Cathedral City. I finally had my photo taken with The Chairman six feet under, but thats as close as Ill ever get now that hes passed on to that Big Showroom in the sky. It was sadly, sweetly surreal, standing over Franks remains in the middle of the desert, no one else around. The plaque in the ground read: The Best is Yet to Come.
The highlight of the weekend was when they projected a 16mm episode of the great early 60s detective series Hawaiian Eye starring my man Robert Conrad poolside. Thats right, we got to wade in the water with our Mai Tais in plastic cups while we watched the show. It was Thrillville, Palm Springs style.
The only drawback was that it was 90 degrees by 9AM, around 110 by 3PM and our cars air conditioner didnt work. (It sure worked in the car that got demolished by that hit and run asshole, though.) But all in all, the coolness was worth the heat.
The trip happened several weeks after my last real anxiety attack, and it was just what the doctor ordered. Palm Springs is an oasis of lovingly preserved Modern architecture, thanks largely to the influx of a fashion-conscious gay population its what Vegas could and should still be if it had any respect for its own cultural history. If you get the chance, PS is a swingin town worth a visit. We plan to return sometime when its not so hot, though.
A few weeks after that we got to see Nancy Sinatra perform at Bimbos in SF as a guest of the promoter, our pally Alan Parowski (I was also a guest on his KALX radio show recently, where he DJs as the Cali Kid.). This experience was likewise therapeutic, as Nancy still swings hard (her drummer on this tour was Clem Burke of Blondie!), but now I know that no one thing can keep you calm and strong. If youre feeling blue, jittery or just unlike yourself, take a chill pill, then take stock of yourself, thats the experienced advice from Dr. Thrill.
Before we get to this months movies, I want to pay public tribute to Rosemary Clooney, who sadly passed away recently at the age of 74. We were lucky enough to see her in concert twice, and to meet her in person just last December. She was one of Monicas three favorite female singers, along with Keely Smith and Eydie Gorme (whom weve also had the pleasure of seeing live in concert), and she will be sorely missed in Thrillville. She even co-starred with her nephew George on ER once or twice. Wont be seeing those reruns again, though. Ill just stick with White Christmas from now on. (Monica watches it every year on her birthday at least got to tell Rosey that before she passed on.) I highly recommend her last released album, Sentimental Journey, where she is backed up by the great Hawaiian swing band, Big Kahuna and the Copa Cat Pack. Aloha, Rosey.
CHEESE N CRACKERS
The weirdest thing just happened. I got up to check the mail so I could rest my fingers, and I noticed Monica got a letter from Bill Clinton. Havent opened it. Really. Im sure he routinely sends little notes to delectable Democratic dames, especially those named Monica. Man, I miss that Elvis-lovin, sax-playin, womanisin, French fry-eatin bubba, now more than ever. We went directly from my all-time favorite prez to the all-time worst. What a social-cultural-political whiplash. No wonder Im stressin. But why is he writing my wife? Maybe he has her confused with someone else named Monica. Hm.
Ironically, this month Thrillville pays homage to redneck royalty, including the King of Rock n Roll, as well as the King of the Monsters.
First up, on Thursday August 1 at The Parkway, I am astonished to be hosting an extremely rare 35mm print of a notorious drive-in legend: POOR WHITE TRASH (1957), also released over the years as Bayou, starring Peter Graves and the incredible Timothy Carey in a torrid tale of passion, mayhem and swamp lust. Thats all I know about it, frankly, because Ive never actually seen it (I dont think), and if I dont book it, I might never get to see it, and neither might you. I often book movies based on rumor only, and if this one lives up to half its reputation, it will be as outrageous an experience as Shanty Tramp was last year. Both of these prints hail from the voodoo vaults of The Werepad, (www.werepad.com) , which boasts perhaps the coolest, most eclectic collection of ultra-rare cult flicks on the planet. They dont show as many movies at their beatnik nightclub in SF as often as they used to (and Ive hosted several Thrillville gigs there), since the current trend is toward live music. But Werepad curator Jacques Boyreau along with his suave sidekick Scott Moffett will never turn their back on their retro-vision roots, as evidenced by the new book Trash: the Graphic Genius of Xploitation Movie Poster Art, published by Chronicle Books in SF. This absolutely gorgeous tome illustrates the golden age of drive-in trash cinema (50s thru the 80s) via Jacques uniquely eloquent prose introductions to the different chapters, and the full color reproductions of their massive collection of posters. Jacques and Scott will be on hand to sign and sell copies of this recently published masterpiece in the Parkway lobby after you get your brains blown out your buttholes by Poor White Trash. All in all, a grand wallow in classic trash you can ill afford to miss.
Next up, once again, its the annual THRILLVILLE ELVIS D-DAY PARTY 2002 (Thursday August 15, Parkway), one day before the 25th anniversary of The Kings death/disappearance. Yessir, it was a quarter century ago on August 16, 1977, that I first heard the news while getting ready for my paper route in the mythical kingdom known as New Jersey. JFK was killed in my lifetime, barely, but I dont remember where I was when that happened (probably asleep in my crib, I know nothing about it!), but I do remember the precise moment when I was told, You hear about Elvis? He died. Stunsville, baby. I still cant accept it. Neither can Monica, the biggest, and prettiest Elvis fan in the world, even bigger and certainly prettier than I am. And I was pretty hardcore. One time a Catholic priest driving us kids in a van to school was making cracks about The King, and I tearfully yelled, And you call yourself a priest! Little did I know that making Elvis jokes can be the least of a priests offenses, but to me at the time, when Elvis was like the surrogate father/big brother figure I desperately craved, that was the worst. Ive learned to have a sense of humor about The King in the years since, after I developed my own identity and stopped sneering at people, because I also have a sense of humor about myself. Everyone needs to be in touch with their Inner Elvis. As Deacon Rivers of Elvis Underground: the Church says, People who hate Elvis only hate themselves. The Deacon also hates libraries, because whenever I walk into one all I can see are all these books that arent about Elvis.
Deacon Rivers (alias PM Clary, www.elvisUNDERGROUND.com) and Cory Levenberg of the Berkeley computer company 42is Consulting (www.42is.com) and I used to put on bi-annual Elvis parties, B Day on January 8 (Es birthday), and D Day on August 16, throughout most of the 90s. In fact, that is how I cultivated my public movie host persona, and why Parkway head honchos Kyle and Catherine Fischer were inspired to ask me to concoct Thrillville when they opened The Parkway in early 97. Every one of our famed Elvis parties was themed according to an Elvis movie (in a Mexican restaurant for Fun in Acapulco, a Chinese restaurant for Girls! Girls! Girls!, the Temple Bar in Berkeley for Paradise Hawaiian Style), and since my stepmom Anne Helm co-starred with Elvis in 1962s FOLLOW THAT DREAM, we had connections for some very special guests at these shin-digs, which featured movies, prizes, music and fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Along with Annie and her daughter, my sis Serena, we were able to entice our now dear-friends Julie Parrish (Paradise Hawaiian Style), Jennifer Holden (Jailhouse Rock) and Yvonne Craig (It Happened at the Worlds Fair, Kissin Cousins) to appear at our parties, along with such local luminaries as the awesome Elvis Herselvis. I have since met and become close with other Elvis babes like Stella Stevens (Girls!Girls! Girls!) and the late Deborah Walley (Spinout). In fact, I showed Spinout (sans musical numbers, the print had been cannibalized!) in November of 2000 for a book release party for Swingin Chicks of the 60s, by our pally Chris Strodder (www.swinginchicks.com). Both Deborah and Annie were in attendance but the audience was pitifully and mysteriously small, and since this was one of Deborahs very last public appearances before she passed away a few months later from esophageal cancer, I was pretty chagrined. I wanted Annie to return to Thrillville this August to appear with my 35mm print of Follow That Dream, but I got upstaged by Graceland, who asked her to appear there for the 25th Death Week in Memphis. So whoever had the chance to meet Annie and Deborah that night but blew it off really blew it, since Deborah wont ever return, and Annie doesnt travel much these days. BUT its still gonna be a helluva party, since Follow That Dream is one of Es better vehicles, a genuinely funny, free-wheelin comedy co-starring Arthur OConnell and Joanna Moore, and it hasnt appeared on any big screen in years, maybe decades, plus well have the usual pre-show surprises, so follow that dream while you can to Thrillville, cats and kittens.
(One last thing: I met my wife at an Elvis B Day party at Albanys Ivy Room. Actually, we first met at The Parkway months before when I showed Jailhouse Rock and she showed me her Navajo Elvis tattoo, but our official meeting was at the Ivy Room, January 8, 1998. Elvis is your good luck charm, baby.)
Lastly but certainly not leastly, on Thursday August 29 at The Parkway, I am proud to present yet another Bay Area big screen premiere of a modern Japanese classic, GODZILLA VS DESTOROYAH (1995), Tohos final Big G movie before the American debacle blasphemed the good name of the King of Monsters but did nothing to threaten his throne. In this one, yet another direct sequel to the original 1954 classic, they actually killed him off.
The first few scenes alone are worth the price of admission on video, the sight of a radioactive Godzilla glowing with nuclear energy as he trashes Hong Kong in an atomic frenzy is impressive enough, but on the big screen it promises to make you drool beer and pizza. He finally melts right through the center of the earth. Im not kidding. Also in the mad mix are Baby G (the clue to the series continuation), and of course Destoroyah itself. Im still not sure what the hell Destoroyah is, some kind of bad-ass hybrid between the original oxygen destroyer and crab shit or something, but no matter, the sheer spectacle of the battles will leave you breathless. This special print is courtesy of every Thrill seekers benefactor Mike Schlesinger at Sony Pictures, who always hooks me up with some seriously slick stuff and youll be seeing more of his amazing archives throughout The Parkways Fourth Annual Film Noir Fest next month (complete schedule now posted at www.picturepubpizza.com). And coming from Mike in October the Bay Area big screen premiere of Godzilla vs Space Godzilla, hosted by none other than Captain Cosmic (Bob Wilkins)!
Anyway, as Stan Lee used to sign off with in his Marvel Comics Soap Box Excelsior!
NEXT MONTH: VINTAGE B MOVIE NOIR!
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